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Creepiness Conquers All in 'Lonely Street'

Theater review: The actors are game, but the laughs are oddly juxtaposed in an off-putting plot twist involving incest.

April 08, 1998|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN CLEMENTE — Susan Deer's odd, seldom-staged "So Long on Lonely Street" ends on a cheery note. The appealing young couple we've come to know look destined for a sweet life together.

Ah, love. . . . Too bad there's an itchy detail. They're brother and sister, twins who have decided incest is the way to go. Creepy? Oh yeah, especially since Deer works the relationship for a love-conquers-all poignancy.

The serious twist goes against the romping instincts of this comedy and throws the audience off. Director Sandy Silver is thrown off too--she lets the moonstruck siblings coo and coo--but mostly stays on track when it comes to the play's more sanely humorous elements.

Fortunately, there are enough of those to make for an amusing show at the Cabrillo Playhouse.

"So Long on Lonely Street," which premiered in Atlanta in 1985 and had a brief run on Broadway a year later, opens with a hoary theatrical device: the reading of a family will. It belongs to Aunt Pearl, whose body rests in a coffin in the living room of the Southern clan's ancestral home.

What's at stake is the property and who's going to get it. King (Tom Cherrier) and Clairice (Marti Hine) want it so they can build Beulahland, a shopping mall for wealthy Christians. Raymond (Jim Jacoby) and Ruth (Sherryl Wynne), the twins, aren't sure what they want--except each other.

That brings us to Annabel Lee (Clara Baker), the housekeeper and rumored illegitimate daughter of the long-dead patriarch. She's sure the house belongs to her and refuses to leave.

Baker is the best feature in the production, which reportedly stalled early on because Silver couldn't find an African American actress for the role. Silver got lucky--Annabel Lee is the most intriguing character, and Baker gives her a salty dignity that is funny without being cartoonish.

King and Clairice, on the other hand, are meant to be cartoonish, and Cherrier and Hine go at it with vigor. Too much vigor, really; both could turn it down a notch, especially the mugging.

*

Jacoby and Wynne are decent actors stuck with characters that make you squirm once their infatuation surfaces. Until then, Raymond and Ruth are affable enough, caught in a situation slowly going haywire.

No big complaints with Malcolm Silver's serviceable set, although touches to show disrepair (such as painted-on wall holes) are too obvious and not necessary. Scenes shift from day to night smoothly, thanks to David Strand's soft lighting.

* "So Long on Lonely Street," Cabrillo Playhouse, 202 Avenida Cabrillo, San Clemente. Thursday-Saturday and April 22, 8 p.m.; Sunday and April 26, 2 p.m. Ends April 26. $12. (714) 492-0465. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Jim Jacoby: Raymond

Clara Baker: Annabel Lee

Sherryl Wynne: Ruth

Tom Cherrier: King

Marti Hine: Clairice

Rick Hardgrove: Bobby

A San Clemente Community Theatre production of Sandra Deer's comedy. Directed by Sandy Silver. Set: Malcolm Silver. Lighting: David Strand. Stage manager: Joey Kincer.

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